Choose Your Language

Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

Linguistics - Syntax

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

All languages do have rules which are called grammar. These rules are necessary to enable those who are learning the language to be able to continue to grow their vocabulary and speak in long sentences throughout their lifetime.

If rules did not exist in language acquisition, the student would find it a huge effort to learn a new language because then they would have to learn each sentence separately. The rules define how sentences should be constructed and what is right from what is the wrong way to put a sentence together. Using those rules helps the student to know how and when to use certain words, verbs, nouns and phrases in a sentence.

With those rules in place, the student will feel more confident in combining words into sentences and can create myriads of sentences on their own while administering these rules of language. The person who has knowledge of the syntax will see the sentence as more meaningful to them. Syntax is very important in constructing sentences and once the rules are learned, it comes quite naturally to the speaker.

In terms of language acquisition, Syntax is the study pertaining to the sentence construction rules and principles in a native language. It goes to the reference of the rules governing the structure of sentences in any language. There are some generic rules that apply to all languages as it relates to its syntax.

The rules include things such as how words are put together, how the word ending changes as it relates to the context of the sentence and how the parts of speech are connected.

In language acquisition, syntax in sentences is exemplified by a few methods below:

“The girl caught the ball”

Here is how you would describe the syntax rule of any sentence (noun or subject is followed by verb and then verb is followed by object or noun): In the above sentence, the subject is the girl and that is followed by the verb caught and then another noun which is the ball.


It does not matter how complex the sentence is because words can be embedded into the existing sentence to make the rules of syntax still work and still meaningful.

Language Learning - Grammar

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

In any language, structural and consistent rules do apply and serves as a governing factor to the arrangement of sentences, words and phrases. There is generative grammar and transformational grammar.

In generative grammar, initiated by Norma Chomsky, is how the study of syntax is approached. It is how a student would calculate what combined words would form a grammatically sentence accurately.

It identifies and analyzes the correct structure of words and phrases. For example, individuals who speak English would know intuitively that the words cat, cats and cat chaser are very directly related. Most aspects of generative grammar indicate that a sentence is either correct or not pursuant to the rules applied in the language.

Transformational grammar is an earlier version of Chomsky’s generative version. It is representative of deep structures and surface structures. Of course, Chomsky has abandoned this idea and embraced generative grammar instead.

However, deep structure focuses more on the meaning of sentences. Chomsky’s theory was that all languages were conducive to deep structures that revealed their properties. The deep structures were usually hidden by the surface structures. The meaning of a sentence was established by its deep structure.

The generative grammar identifies with just the knowledge that motivates the student’s ability to speak the language and to understand it. Chomsky thinks that this knowledge is inherent, which explains why a baby can have previous knowledge about a language structure and only need to learn the language features by listening to the parents and siblings speak that language.

He also suggests that every language has specific essential things in general and the inherent theory became believable and dominated the attitudes that others had toward learning a new language.

Competence and performance were distinct to the grammatical theory structure that Chomsky embraced. It is obvious that individuals learning a new language will make mistakes when it came to how sentences were structured.

This has nothing to do with competence as long as they had the understanding of grammatical sentences.

Different types of grammar progress by the continued use of the language. When expressing language in written form, grammar has many formal rules that the student has to abide by.

Students learn prescriptive grammar in elementary school, which gives them a better idea of the different grammatical rules to apply in a sentence structure. Prescriptive and descriptive grammar are opposite in nature because one is how language is and the other is how language should really be.

Language Learning Methods - Audio-Lingual Method (Skinner and others)

Monday, June 15th, 2009

The Audio-Lingual method of learning a second language is considered a non-communicative approach involving mimicking, imitating, and drilling.

Repetition and habit formulation are central to the elements of the instructions. It would create patterns in the target that would be recognizable to the student by the constant repeating process of both hearing and speaking the language continually.

The emphasis is on speech instead of writing. This approach unfairly associates with B.F. Skinner’s theory that includes a communicative approach to second language acquisition instructions.

The Army Method

Known as the Army method, ALM forcefully became necessary due to World War II. During World War II and afterwards, the ability to listen and speak a foreign language became a necessity. The challenge became apparent when the United States was unable to communicate with the rest of the world.

The audio-lingual method incorporated the direct method into its scope of learning a new language. Memorizing dialogues, playing games with grammar from the target language as well as practical drills helped to induce learning more efficiently.

The backward build up exercise is used to break down a new word into syllables. The student starts with the final word in any sentence and verbally repeats every word in the sentence by working backwards. Conversely, it can be done with each syllable of the word using the same backward technique to get the right pronunciation of each word.

The organization of grammatical structure is presented in the form of short dialogues. Listening to recorded conversations in the target language repeatedly and mimicking these dialogues help with quickly adapting to the language.

This particular method uses reinforcement tactics to teach a second language, which involves positive feedback if the grammar is correct and negative feedback if it is not.

Students are taught the foreign language directly instead of using their native language to explain new words and phrases in the second language.

Charles Fries, who was a director of the English Language department at the University of Michigan, thought that this method would work best by incorporating grammar and learning structures as the starting point. This meant that the students were given the drilling instructions, but it was their responsibility to recite the grammatical structures and pattern of each sentence orally.


The goal of using audio-lingual method successfully is to practice grammatical structures enough times to allow the student to use it instinctively. The teacher is in control of the drills because of the expectation of a particular response from the student. In the event that the student does not give the correct response, a negative feedback is received.